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News Archive - Apr 03

Orca Network News - April, 2003

News, updates and events about
the Southern Resident orcas,
orcas worldwide, and their habitats

Current News

April 1, 2003 through April 30, 2003.

Stomach may tell killer whale's tale
April 27, 2003 (Anchorage Daily News) RESEARCH: Biologists to examine contents of organ after orca found on island. A large male killer whale with a belly of partly digested mush and some black feathers washed up dead last weekend on Latouche Island in Prince William Sound, offering scientists a rare chance to catalog the personal diet of one of the ocean's top predators.
The 3-foot-long stomach is now in a cooler in the agency's "40-below" freezer at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Anchorage, awaiting air shipment to a state laboratory in Fairbanks, biologist Barbara Mahoney said Thursday.
The 23-foot-long carcass with a 4-foot dorsal fin was so bleached out that it couldn't be identified by the patch on the left side below the dorsal, the common method for keeping track of killer whales, Mahoney said. The animal appeared as though it had been healthy, and there was no obvious cause of death.

Fish recovery needs state nurture not just Mother Nature
April 27, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Op-ed by Jeffrey Koenings, Dir. of WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
More than a million adult coho salmon returned to the Columbia River in 2001 for the largest run in 15 years. In 2002, chinook salmon made an exceptionally strong showing in the Columbia and off the Washington coast, prompting more than one headline writer to proclaim the long-awaited "return of the kings."
With this kind of encouragement, some may ask if we've turned the corner on salmon recovery and whether we can scale back the scientific, financial and other resources we've committed to that effort in recent years.
The simple answer is no -- at least not if we're serious about the long-term health of Washington's salmon and steelhead stocks. Scaling back would close a critical window of opportunity we now have to make real progress toward the goal.
Why? In the first place, most scientists agree that the sudden increase in salmon returns is due primarily to a cyclical change in ocean conditions known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Similar to El Niño, this natural phenomenon has been recorded off the Pacific coast since the early 1900s, causing ocean temperatures to oscillate between warmer and colder every 20 to 30 years.
That's encouraging, but it doesn't necessarily mean Washington's depressed salmon and steelhead populations are on the road to recovery, according to a panel of scientists who recently examined that issue for federal fisheries officials.
Indeed, after reassessing all 27 Pacific salmon and steelhead populations listed for ESA protection, the panel concluded that all of them still show "significant continuing risk" of extinction.
The bottom line, as the science panel sees it, is that favorable ocean conditions may come and go but wild salmon populations will never truly rebound unless action is taken to effectively address all the factors threatening their survival. Those factors, often called the "four H's" of salmon recovery, include harvest pressure, hatchery operations, hydro facilities and habitat conditions.
With Mother Nature now on our side, we have a real opportunity to jump-start these efforts and reverse the historic decline of our native salmon and steelhead stocks. This may well be our last chance, since many stocks already threatened with extinction may not otherwise survive the next major downturn in ocean conditions.
To turn our backs on this critical window of opportunity would be to leave the future of these precious resources to the vagaries of ocean currents.

Keiko Still Popular
April 25, 2003 (KVAL-TV) Scientists say warmer ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic might have caused herring and orca populations to stay 40 to 50 miles offshore this season, rather than venturing closer to the coast.
Last summer, the 26-year-old killer whale swam nearly 900 miles to Norway from Iceland, where he had been kept in a netted bay since 1998.
Keiko's caretakers and Phillips, whose foundation is based in San Francisco, are working with a Norwegian whale researcher to pinpoint coastal regions where some tagged orcas have congregated in past summers. They hope to find likely spots, then lead Keiko there this summer, giving him opportunities to interact with his own kind.

Grocers sued over artificial color in farmed salmon
April 24, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer When Lori Thomas of Seattle discovered the salmon that she bought at Albertsons had been raised on feed that artificially kept its flesh pink, she was incensed.
"There's no way I would have spent my money buying salmon that was colored with a chemical additive to give it the red or orange or pink color," said Thomas, who was still upset yesterday with not being told how the salmon had been raised. "If I had been told about the fake color I would have never bought this stuff."
Their case was filed yesterday in King County Superior Court and charges Albertsons, Safeway and the Kroger Co. with deception, unfair business practices, breach of warranty and negligent misrepresentation in the sale of farm-raised salmon that were fed artificial chemicals as nutrients but not labeled this way. Kroger owns two supermarket chains, QFC and Fred Meyer.
The case isn't expected to go to trial for 18 months, but it is believed to be unprecedented. The suit, if successful, could result in millions of dollars in damages being paid in a battle over two versions of Northwest salmon -- a regional icon and a popular seafood nationwide.
Stores sued over farmed salmon's fishy color April 24, 2003 (Seattle Times)

A methane to their madness
April 22, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Tribes and farmers come together -- over cow manure. Who knew the answers to so many problems lie in cow dung? That the odorous piles could preserve farmland, save salmon, even build trust between traditional foes.
In what they're calling a "historic agreement," the Tulalip Tribes have joined with local farmers, conservationists and others to build a plant here that will convert cattle waste into energy.
The partners hope the new way of dealing with dung will help preserve the rural characteristics of the Skykomish Valley -- and keep farmers farming and salmon spawning.
"Tribes and farmers have stayed in their opposing corners," Lucas said, "and no one talked."
But a funny thing happened about two years ago, when Tulalip Tribes Council Chairman Herman Williams Jr. realized that Indians and farmers have "so much more in common than not," Lucas said.
Earlier this month, the partners signed a formal agreement -- a deal forged through cow manure.
Methane from manure
The plan involves constructing an anaerobic "digester" plant that pumps manure from local dairies. During a conversion process, methane is removed from the dung and used to fuel generators that produce electricity. The manure is broken down into a cleaner, eco-friendly grade of fertilizer and an effluent purged of the stench that permeates cow pies and cow towns alike.
The electricity can be sold on the market. Farmers can sell or use the fertilizer without fear that it will harm groundwater, streams or salmon. And with a better way to deal with manure, farmers can expand their herds to better compete.

Mighty chinook overcome dams, predators, nets and keep coming back
April 21, 2003 (Seattle Times) The biggest and strongest of the five salmon species in Northwest rivers, Columbia River spring chinook come into the river when it is full and cold. Some barrel on to remote reaches of Idaho, an inland river journey of 700 miles or so that reaches the high valleys of the Sawtooth Mountains.
Anchors of the ecosystem, chinook, even in death, bring vital nutrients upstream from the ocean to inland forests, nourishing wildlife and habitat. And while their numbers are greatly diminished from historic abundance, when as many as 16 million steelhead and salmon thronged the Columbia, some of this year's chinook runs will be huge - numbers not seen since the 1950s.
Their flesh, oilier than any other salmon to fuel their journey, sets Columbia River spring chinook apart - a fact long appreciated by the Columbia River tribes.

Tiny salmon trapped as dam operators cut flows downriver
April 19, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Hundreds of thousands of just-hatched salmon could die this weekend as power demand dips and dam operators hold back water from the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, tribal fisheries officials fear.
As the Columbia's Hanford Reach receded over the past two weekends when power demand dropped, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 young chinook died -- either trapped in overheated side pools or left high and dry to bake in the sun, according to estimates by the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The fish kills come at a critical time -- just as salmon fry are emerging from gravel nests made by their mothers. Some 35 million to 40 million fish are expected to hatch at Hanford Reach this year, with the numbers susceptible to stranding increasing daily.
The fish, just 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, are too small to stay in the main channel of the river. They drift to the shallows, where they can find food and bulk up for their trip downstream to the ocean. In those shallow areas, they are trapped when river levels drop.
"Their susceptibility is pretty much at its peak right now," said Rod Woodin, Columbia River policy coordinator for Fish and Wildlife. "We've been monitoring this and trying to reduce impacts, but we obviously haven't come up with an ultimate solution yet."

Dam's removal yields creek teeming with young salmon
April 18, 2003 (The Olympian) Fish flourish in 25 miles of new habitat in Shelton
It's been about 18 months since the largest dam removal project in South Sound history was completed on Goldsborough Creek. Guess what?
Salmon are reaping the benefits of the $4.8 million project, just as the many partners in the ambitious undertaking had hoped.
Removal of the leaky, obsolete dam owned by Simpson Timber Co. opened up 25 miles of upstream fish habitat that had been inaccessible to all but the most athletic of salmon since 1885.
It didn't take them long to find it.
Two water-powered traps that catch fish and keep them alive are operated on the creek by the Squaxin Island tribe from late March through June -- the spring migration season.
About 75 young coho were counted Thursday by tribal natural resource technicians Mike Henderson and Derek Bartczak.

Prince William Sound Orcas May Need Extra Protection
April 17, 2003 (Environmental News Service) A dwindling group of killer whales, or orcas, that pass through Prince William Sound Alaska may receive additional protection under federal law. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is reviewing a petition to designate the AT- 1 group of orcas transiting Prince William Sound as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The agency received the petition from a coalition of conservation groups on November 13, 2002. Agency officials found the petition may have merit.
The AT-1 group once numbered 22 animals, but now contains only nine whales, including four females. The AT-1 whales have been observed feeding on harbor seals and porpoises in Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords in Alaska, but no new calves have been sighted since 1984.
"Regardless of the outcome of the population status review, we are, and have been, concerned about this group of killer whales," said Ron Berg, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries in Alaska.
The petitioners suggested that a decrease in available prey, the long term chronic effects of contaminants from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and long term effects of vessel disturbance are possible factors in the decline of the AT-1 group. Resident and transient orcas have different eating habits, calls and genetics. The AT1 group is currently considered part of a larger population of 346 transient killer whales in the eastern North Pacific. Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords are also home to about 362 resident killer whales.

Local orca population up
April 17, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The population of endangered southern-resident killer whales off the coasts of Vancouver Island and Washington state is increasing slightly, a Canadian scientist says.
Five calves have been born since last summer and one died, leaving the population at a still-precarious 84 orcas, said John Ford, senior marine mammal scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C.
"I don't know if it is a record or not," Ford said Monday, "but it is a big jump after the last couple of years anyway. It does give cause for encouragement."
Usually one to two calves are born to the southern residents in a year. Even a few more offspring can make a big difference, Ford said, "but it may not represent the long term."
Killer whales usually mate in the summer and have a 16- to 17-month gestation period. The calves, typically born in the winter, have a mortality rate of about 40 percent.
More calves may be counted because two of the three pods are not nearby and are expected to appear in the area next month.
The L pod appeared in California's Monterey Bay last month and has yet to return north. The J pod was off Parksville, northwest of Nanaimo, in early March.

Oregon Requires 'Color Added' Signs with Farmed Salmon
April 17, 2003 (Seafood) In yet another challenge to farmed salmon in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon is requiring retailers and processors to use a 'color added' label to show farmed salmon contains artificial color. The requirement can be met with signs and has been on the books since December. The sign does not have to identify whether the colorant is astaxanthin or canthaxanthin.
Technically FDA could require such labeling nationally; however the use of colorants does not constitute a health risk and the agency has more important fish to fry.
According to Seafood Business, an anonymous caller contacted the state's Department of Agriculture in 2002, cited the reference to the federal code (21 CFR 73 sections 35 and 75) and asked whether the department was enforcing it.
'We said 'This is something we can't ignore,'' says Ron McKay, administrator of the food safety division in Oregon's Dept. of Agriculture. The department sent a notice to retailers Dec. 9 that it would begin enforcing the rule as part of routine inspections.
After receiving the state's letter, Costco Wholesale labeled its salmon 'color-added,' says Jeff Lyons, VP and general merchandise manager for fresh foods.
'This is not going to make anyone sick,' says McKay. 'This is part of the information a consumer needs to have to make an informed decision.'

Saving salmon no longer the top priority
April 14, 2003 (Bremerton Sun) After four years on the Endangered Species List, Puget Sound salmon still face an uncertain future, experts say. But the race to change local land-use laws to protect them has slowed from an all-out sprint to a comfortable walk.
And the lawsuits that would've forced county officials to change have never materialized.
Now, most county officials are relying on a cooperative effort called "Shared Strategy for Puget Sound." It was established to develop a single, regionwide recovery plan to be implemented on the local level. Completion of the plan is scheduled for June 2005.
Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen said she sees no need to push Kitsap's plan forward at this time.
One reason, she said, is that NOAA Fisheries is undergoing a review to determine if wild Puget Sound chinook should remain listed in light of significant hatchery production of the species.
State stormwater rules have been written but not yet adopted.
Leaders of environmental groups say they are not shy about suing state and local governments about endangered species, but they are being selective.
"Before, we were salmon-centric," Endresen said. "Now we are looking at more environmental factors besides listed salmon. It's more of a multi-species approach."
Proposed education programs include teaching people what they can do to help salmon, explaining why certain rules are needed and showing economic benefits of environmental protection.
Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, acknowledges that much work needs to be done to save salmon from extinction, but he is encouraged by the progress in: stream restoration projects funded with state and federal dollars; volunteers willing to put in long hours; improved forest management; increased fishing restrictions; and revised hatchery operations.
Favorable ocean conditions have temporarily improved salmon survival and increased salmon runs, Koenings said, but the hard work must continue.

Threatened chinook among 1,000 fish killed by drop in White River flow
April 14, 2003 (Tacoma News Tribune) At least 1,000 young salmon, including endangered chinook, died as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers limited the flow of the White River earlier this week to allow Puget Sound Energy to fix its dam.
A Corps official said Friday that engineers began the "special operation" to lower the river level Tuesday night while coordinating with fish agencies and Indian tribes, and that it went as planned. The Corps runs Mud Mountain Dam on the river upstream from Buckley and controls river flow for flood prevention purposes.
But at least one agency, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, criticized the operation, saying now is the peak time for young salmon to descend the river to the ocean.
Greg Hueckel, head of the Fish and Wildlife's habitat program, said the Corps followed state guidelines for reducing river flow, but "the timing of (the operation) was poor."
The fish kill was a serious blow to the existence of spring chinook, which had been making a slow recovery in the past several years. Chinook salmon in the White River are listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The fish had gone almost extinct in the 1980s, with a return of just six fish in the White River in 1986.
Exactly how many fish were killed this week is unknown.

Red tide bloom follows population boom
April 14, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Blooms of algae that taint shellfish, endangering the people who eat them, are increasing around Puget Sound -- mirroring the swelling number of residents.
For the first time, researchers have drawn a correlation between population growth here and the blossoming aquatic scourge known as "red tides."
The blooms are turning shellfish more toxic than ever, and they are popping up in places where they've never been a problem before.
During the last 50 years, the region's population has more than doubled. That trend has been accompanied by increased volumes of fertilizer, sewage and pet waste being pumped into the Sound -- a nutrient-rich soup gobbled up by the algae.

Dams' control getting trickier
April 11, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Sure, a bunch of salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
But fish upriver, beyond huge dams where the salmon can't go, deserve some consideration, too. And the needs of fish must be balanced with using dams on those rivers to generate electrical power.
That was the essence of a decision issued yesterday by a federal planning agency.
It angered environmentalists. Ditto for several Indian tribes, which began seriously considering a lawsuit against the federal government to beef up water flows for salmon.
The decision by the Northwest Power Planning Council followed two years of wrangling over how much water should be run through the four-state system of massive power-generating dams on the Snake and Columbia, and at what time of year.
At the end of the day, you can call it what you want, but what matters to salmon is how much water is in the river," said Rob Masonis of the American Rivers conservation group, "and under their plan there is going to be less water in the river in summer months."

Rules relaxed for coho fishery
April 11, 2003 (Seattle Times) Taking advantage of continuing increases in salmon returns, federal fisheries managers yesterday adopted the most bountiful West Coast salmon-fishing seasons in 15 years.
For the recreational fishery, which takes the bulk of the coho harvest, the overall coho harvest was projected at 478,000, up 368 percent from last year.
Butch Smith, owner of Coho Charters in Ilwaco, said he is looking forward to the first year in 15 that he will spend more days fishing than in meetings to set the seasons. "For the whole Washington coast this means one heck of an economic shot in the arm," he said.
West Coast salmon returns hit bottom in 1994, and sport and commercial salmon fishing were severely curtailed, but have steadily increased the past three years. Scientists credit favorable climatic conditions, cutbacks in salmon harvests and billions spent on restoration of fresh-water habitat for the improved runs.

Snake River on watchdogs' sick list
April 10, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Three years after the Clinton administration declined to disable four Snake River dams to help imperiled salmon, the Snake can be counted among the most endangered rivers in the nation, an environmental group says in a report due out today.
The report's release coincides with a decision expected today by a federal planning agency about changing operation of the Snake and Columbia rivers' dams in a way that fish advocates fear will harm salmon.
American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based group that focuses on river health, lists the Snake in an annual report as the eighth-most-endangered river in the country.
The fault can be laid with the Bush administration, American Rivers says, because it is failing to keep promises made in 2000 by the Clinton administration. Then, the federal government said it would make extraordinary efforts to help the fish without disabling the dams.

Toxic metals in Lake Washington peak during rush hour
April 9, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Here's yet another reason to hate the dreaded commute across the Evergreen Point Bridge: It pollutes Lake Washington.
A newly released study shows that toxic heavy metals are flowing off the bridge during rainstorms -- and directly into the lake below -- through about 350 drains.
Levels of mercury, lead, copper and other pollutants are highest during peak commute times.
Pollution comes from a variety of sources on the 115,000 vehicles that cross the 520 bridge on an average day, including oil, grease and transmission fluid.
Even well-maintained vehicles pollute to some degree through brake pads, which grind off tiny amounts of metals with each use.

Second orca baby born to J Pod
April 8, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A second baby orca has been born this year in J Pod, the group of killer whales that spends more time in Puget Sound than any other.
The last time the pod produced two calves in a single year was 1997.
The new calf, dubbed J-39 for its birth order in the family group, is the offspring of J-11, nicknamed Blossom. It's the fifth calf born to the three Puget Sound pods since last spring, though one has since died.
The calf was spotted near the Lopez Island Ferry Dock in the San Juan Islands by Tom McMillan of Salish Sea Charters and its arrival confirmed by Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. "This is a real cause for celebration," Balcomb said. "My only caution is that biologically they are not recruited to the population until they mature."
A census will be conducted in a few weeks when K and L pods return to inland waters from their winter travels. If no further births or deaths have occurred, the new birth brings the Puget Sound population to 85.
Researchers have been worried about the Puget Sound orcas, which declined from a peak population of 99 in 1995 to 78 in 2000.

Love is so complicated - For Luna's fans, a whale of a dilemma
April 7, 2003 (Victoria Times-Colonist) Luna should be in Victoria and Puget Sound waters at this time of year, hanging out with his family members from L Pod. But instead he lives alone with his human friends in Nootka Sound, where he's thought to have been brought almost two years ago by an older uncle who subsequently died. The young whale is beloved now, says Girotto.
"When everyone started realizing he might be here for a while, they got much more protective of him," he says. "You really get to appreciate whale intelligence after watching this guy for a while."
Luna is one of 275 resident killer whales that frequent the waters off Vancouver Island. Under normal circumstances, he would spend his entire life with one of the southern resident pods, which includes his mother and a new baby brother born last summer.
But the young whale, first spotted in Nootka Sound in the summer of 2001 during an aerial sea otter count, has shown little interest in venturing into the open ocean to find his family. Past attempts to lure him out past the entrance of the sound have failed, dashing hopes of an accidental reunion with L pod. A decision will soon have to be made whether to leave Luna alone or force a reunion. Neither option is ideal.

Mammoth mammals making annual trek
April 7, 2003 (Seattle Times) POSSESSION BAY - Languid and liquid as the swells it surfs, the gray whale gives a mighty blow then arcs gracefully in a dive for the bottom.
Its explosive "Pffffooooffffh!" is arresting, and a reminder of our common breath: This is no giant fish from the depths, but a mammal, like us.
The grays' migration off the coast - one of the longest undertaken by any mammal - is one of the rites of spring. The grays make it look easy, knocking off the 4,300-mile, one-way journey in just 54 days, swimming at a walking pace around the clock. And some grays go even farther - swimming as much as 5,000 miles.
The northbound migration comes in two waves: Adults and juveniles usually pass by in the greatest numbers in the last week of March and early April. Mothers and calves cruise by later in April, hugging the shore to avoid deadly killer whales. They were off the coast of Monterey, Calif., last week, plowing north at about 3 mph.
Grays have good taste: They winter in the warm, crystal lagoons of Baja California, Mexico, and summer in the frigid, fecund waters of the Bering and Chukchi seas of the arctic.

Orca pod shows signs of growth
April 5, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) A modest baby boom among Puget Sound's orca population has researchers hoping that the killer whales may be rebounding after several years of decline.
The new whale, named J-39 for its pod and birth order, is the fifth born to the southern residents since last October. One died, but the increase of four raises the total number of residents to 85.
"It's a very nice uptick," said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist for the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, San Juan County.

Another new calf in J pod!!
April 4, 2003 (Center for Whale Research) Yesterday, on 3 April 2003, a 31 year old resident female killer whale identified as J11 was seen with a very new baby, her fourth known offspring. The calf was reported to the Center for Whale Research by Tom McMillan of Salish Sea Charters, and confirmed with photo-documentation by Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit late in the day. The mother, J11, has two other living youngsters: J27, a male born in 1991; and, J31 a female born in 1995. Her first born calf, J25, died in 1988 as a neonate. The new calf documented yesterday is designated J39, and its sex is unknown. It appears to be about a week old and in good health.
Earlier this year, in January an eighteen year old resident female killer whale identified as J22 was also seen with a new baby, her second known offspring. Again, Tom McMillen first reported that calf to the Center for Whale Research, and it was subsequently confirmed with photo-identification by Balcomb, Ellifrit and Candice Emmons. That calf was designated J38, and its sex is unknown. It appeared healthy and vigorous on 3 April, and we hope that it continues in good health.
The birth of two calves in J pod is extremely good news for the southern resident killer whale population, which has been in population decline since the mid-1990's. With these additions the pod now numbers 22 individuals. No new calves were observed in J pod in 2002, only one new calf was observed in J pod in 2001, no new calf in J pod in 2000, and two new calves were observed in J pod in 1998. The pod population has hovered around twenty for the past decade, but may now be poised for an increase. Biologically, however, young whales don't add to the situation until they mature ten to fifteen years from now and produce more babies. If the current young generation remains healthy, that is good news for these Puget Sound icons.

Farmers resist fish estuary plan, say salt in water table will ruin them
April 4, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Farmers want to maintain tide gates, which are basically one-way cork valves that keep the saltwater out of their fields. Those gates also cut off migrating salmon, which seek shelter to avoid predators and find new habitat.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the fish must be allowed into the gates, even if saltwater gets into the farm soil. Skagit Valley farmers have flocked to Olympia, urging lawmakers to block the plan and protect the dozens of crops they grow and the $275 million in annual revenue they yield.
Local Native American tribes -- who fish for salmon -- support the state's position. Skagit farmers face little to no regulation from a county that supports its agricultural activities and does very little to watch it, relying on state and federal regulation instead.
Skagit County is under state order to find new estuary land for chinook and other species of salmon, a compromise struck between the state and the Skagit system cooperative, a consortium of three tribes, including the upper Skagit, Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes. The Skagit River is the second-largest river in the state and has the second-largest number of wild salmon runs. The Columbia is the largest.

Lakes in NW full of toxic particles
April 1, 2003 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) The weather systems that sweep in from the Pacific each winter and spring appear to be carrying pesticides and other chemicals long ago banned in the United States and Canada but still used overseas, say Shaw and other scientists attending a conference on the health of Puget Sound and its Canadian counterpart, the Georgia Strait.
The contaminants are polychlorinated biphenyls, fire-retardant chemicals that were banned in the United States in the late 1970s; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are still used as fire retardants and are increasing rapidly in Canadian and U.S. women's breast milk; and pesticides including toxaphene, which also was banned in the United States in the '70s.
When a weather front reaches the Pacific Northwest, the clouds are cooled as they move into higher latitudes. They cool most where large sheets of ice in glaciers lie sprawled across mountainsides.
Once cooled enough, those clouds drop snow. Attached to the snow are the once-gaseous pollutants, now solidified and clinging to the snow crystals.
"Toxaphene is popping up all over the place," Shaw said.

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